The other day, I ran across a poem I wrote seven years ago, before it meant to me as much as it does now. Back then, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment that I could clean in an hour. Back then I didn’t have two additional people who could make a mess, but not clean up after themselves. Back then, any time I wasn’t at work was my free time to do with as I pleased. I didn’t know when I wrote this then that I would open it now and it would mean what it once did, but also so much more.
Without a job,
alone: to read,
write, think, study,
watch court TV
and “Dr. Phil;” doorbusters
and garage sales;
cooking and cleaning –
my intellect to
I wrote this to remind myself what was important to me. Then, I thought the time I would find myself without a job wouldn’t be until retirement. I wrote this to remind myself what I liked to do and who I was. I was scared of becoming someone so far removed from that: someone who just ambled through time, wasting it rather than spending it.
Today, I find myself with little free time. But I have squandered much of what I have, doing things that aren’t important: things that don’t challenge me mentally, creatively, or physically. I do things that do not require actually doing anything. I remember after Brandon was born, I had twelve weeks off of work and although people had told me to sleep when he sleeps, I always found myself washing bottles, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming the floors. There was always a distraction from what was actually important.
Now, with these smart phones, I find myself squandering even more time than I used to: suddenly I’m looking at all the photos with the hashtag “losingbabyweight” on Instagram or reading reviews on an item I’m not even that interested in. I’m checking the hours of a place I might not even be going to and interestedly absorbing the overshare of a person I don’t even know. It’s yet another time waster that distracts me from doing something meaningful.
So last night, I did the very barest minimum of cleaning up. I just rinsed and stacked the dishes. I let the toys remain scattered around. The table remained unwiped, and food was idling on the floor underneath the high chair without being swept up. Then I opened up a bottle of wine and my laptop and resumed where I left off on this novel. I noticed that it had been a month since I opened up that Word document. A month!
It is always so easy to be distracted. It’s always easier to flop onto the couch with the remote. But when I look back at everything I’m proud of and everything I’ve accomplished, I realize none of those TV hours were ever good for anything. They weren’t even relaxation to me; that is a bath and a book. Laziness was just white noise to drown out the voice telling me to do something better, be something more.
It's so easy to get sucked into that white noise — especially when I'm tired. I think that's why I go on retreats, to get away from all the things that just distract me and figure out what my priorities are.